22 December 2000

Survey reveals another tough year in Wales, especially hills

By Andrew Shirley

WELSH farmers have had another tough year, according to data from the University of Waless latest Farm Business Survey report.

Compiled by the universitys Institute of Rural Studies, the report is based on 625 Welsh farms with account years ending between September 1999 and April 2000.

Although the results are varied, the lowlands have fared better than the hills. Size has also been important. All categories of hill farm have seen a drop in net income. Cattle and sheep farms are the worst affected with an average of only £1901; the smallest had an income of -£892.

Sheep-only hill farms have also suffered. The biggest managed to raise their net farm income by a modest £2207, but on average, incomes dropped by £682.

But net farm income for large hill and upland dairy farms has risen by 28%, although across the sector, average incomes fell by 12%. Both the lowland dairy and the lowland beef and sheep sectors saw a small rise in average net farm income of just over £1600. But the smallest cattle and sheep producers had negative farm incomes, for the second year running.

T N Jenkins, director of the institutes farm business survey unit, says Welsh farmers will have to tighten their belts even more, but notes they can only be tightened so far. "Many of the smaller dairy farmers have already left the industry." &#42

Welsh farms have experienced another difficult year, especially in the hills.